Buzzfeed in the UK: are kittens, owls and boy bands the media's future?

The UK launch of BuzzFeed promises more fun fluff that attracts 40 million hits a month. Oscar Williams-Grut reports

Any hip 20-something who logs on to list-loving social media site BuzzFeed tomorrow – and thousands around the world do daily – they will notice something a little different.

Alongside pieces like "29 Baby Animals George W Bush Should Paint Next" and "Cats Offering Helpful Advice To Lindsay Lohan" will be "The Autocorrect Map Of Britain" and "18 Weird And Wonderful British Foods You Need To Try".

Monday marks the launch of BuzzFeed UK, the first overseas office of the wildly popular American website that has been hailed as either the death knell or the future of the media.

Founded in 2006 by Jonah Peretti, who was also one of the brains behind Huffington Post, BuzzFeed calls itself the "first true social news organisation" and specialises in "shareable content". In practice, this means lists of cute animals, photos of celebrities and lots of nostalgia.

The formula has proved wildly successful, so that the company has been valued at $200m (£130m), and in January BuzzFeed raised $19.3m to expand to London, a move its president, Jon Steinberg, called "the natural next expansion" as, after the US, most traffic comes from Blighty.

"We're not radically reinventing what BuzzFeed does," says Luke Lewis, the UK editor. "We're taking all the stuff that's done phenomenally well in the US and just giving it a British spin."

From his London office, Lewis and the three other members of the UK team have been working on what this means in practice.

"There's going to be a lot to do with nostalgia – one of the first posts we're publishing is looking at Nineties boy bands and where they are now," says Lewis, formerly the editor of NME.com. "We'll also be doing a fair bit on animals which is one of the things BuzzFeed is known for. There are lots of British animals that they've never written about: foxes, badgers, owls."

It may not sound like the forefront of the press but it is content like this that has helped the US site record over 40 million views a month. BuzzFeed, which has around 70 editorial staff in the US, recently branched into long-form and political journalism, but Lewis says the UK office won't be doing anything similar, for now at least.

"The idea is for it to be based on pop culture and British obsessions," he says. "The one article we've already published is bizarre cover lines from British real life mags like Take a Break. We're just finding corners of British culture that are funny and entertaining." It is this cultural focus that Lewis thinks will help BuzzFeed UK avoid the kind of damp squib debut suffered by Peretti's first venture, the Huffington Post.

Lewis says BuzzFeed's audience is "20-somethings obsessed with pop culture and immersed in the social web", a demographic with obvious appeal for advertisers. The US site has pioneered paid-for advertorials that are designed to be shared just like its regular content. But the UK operation will be purely editorial.

"The commercial side of it is further down the line," Lewis says. "The idea is just building up an audience and spreading the word of BuzzFeed in the UK. It's a fairly unpressured environment."

Lewis accepts that fluffy animals and advertorials might not be everyone's idea of the future of the media. "We're not here to tell anyone else how to do anything," says Lewis. "BuzzFeed has its own way of doing things. I wouldn't presume to tell anyone else what to do."

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Langley James : IT Support; Helpdesk, VMware; Manchester, £18k

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Langley James : IT Support; Helpdesk, VMware; Manch...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HRO - £70k+ ote

£35000 - £450000 per annum + £3k car, £70k ote: h2 Recruit Ltd: Do you want to...

Citifocus Ltd: Newly Qualified Accountants - Risk Mgmt

£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Prestigious financial institution seeks to...

Citifocus Ltd: Operational Risk Analyst

£Negotiable: Citifocus Ltd: Experienced operational risk professional with ban...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital